Festival celebrates the king
Wednesday, Aug 20, 2014 06:00 am
Aug. 22 to 24
Busby Sports Grounds
Admission: $15 per day, $20 weekend pass at gate
It’s been almost exactly 37 years since Elvis Aaron Presley passed away of a drug overdose.
But legends are never forgotten, and the King of Rock and Roll is celebrated this weekend at the sixth annual Blue Suede Music Festival running Aug. 22 to 24 at the Busby Sports Grounds.
Festival founder Trudy Taphorn is expecting 3,200 visitors to sing, clap, dance and swoon to the grooves of 17 Elvis tribute artists.
Taphorn also welcomes back the Grammy award winning Blackwood Quartet.
“It was Elvis’ favourite gospel quartet. In fact, he auditioned for them. But before the quartet made up its mind, he was signed with Sun Records. Elvis never did sing with them, but gospel was always his favourite music,” Taphorn said.
Despite his celebrity status, the cultural icon always remained close to the quartet. They were even invited to perform at Elvis’s mother’s funeral. Mark, son of the original founder Cecil Blackwood, continues the legacy.
“It’s a huge connection to Elvis and I wanted to bring his fans something really special.”
St. Albert singer Vic de Sousa is one of the returning tribute artists. He is performing two gigs — an early ’50s collection of songs and a second set from the ’70s jumpsuit era.
“This is my fifth year doing and I keep going back. I always loved Elvis since I was a little boy and that’s what started me on my own band. I go back to pay tribute to the man who got me started and I enjoy invoking memories in other people who enjoy his music,” said de Sousa, a natural baritone who fronts De Sousa Drive.
Presley was an eclectic singer with a malleable voice who popularized rockabilly, gospel, blues, R&B and an up-tempo, backbeat-driven fusion of country.
At times influential, at times rebellious, Elvis energized musical arrangements with a sexually provocative style that today would be considered tame.
“Without Elvis, music today would be completely different. He opened doors for so many artists at a time when their music was never played. He opened up music to all kinds of people and he was so diverse. I can honestly say there isn’t a single song I don’t enjoy. What he did, he did well,” de Sousa noted.
In his ’50s set, de Sousa has selected some of Elvis’ lesser-known songs — Lawdy Miss Clawdy, Rip It Up and Baby, Let’s Play House.
In his’70s set, performed in a black jumpsuit with gold grommets, de Sousa croons songs that bring to mind the King’s instantly recognizable voice — Always on My Mind, Love Me Tender and Return to Sender.
A second local Elvis tribute artist is Morinville’ Rick Johnsen. By trade, Johnsen is a Fort McMurray heavy equipment operator who performs at competitions and charity events.
“He’s quite good and he looks like Elvis during the Las Vegas jumpsuit era,” said Taphorn.
In addition to non-stop entertainment, the festival delivers a variety of activities ranging from a parade of Elvises and a trivia contest to a live auction and pancake breakfast.
The festival also collects donations for four local area food banks. For more information visit bluesuedemusicfestival.com.